It’s never a good day when one of the most wicked organizations on the planet is pleased by anything. But how could America’s teachers unions not have been thrilled with the news that Davis Guggenheim’s damning indictment of the devastation they have brought down upon America’s public school system and millions upon millions of children was snubbed by the Academy this morning?
Within minutes of the news breaking that Jared Lee Loughner had killed six and wounded 12 in a rampage outside a Tucson safeway store, including a critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the news media immediately leapt to the conclusion that the harsh tone of our political discourse – led by conservative talk radio -- surely must be to blame.
That narrative turned out to be hogwash, but another one has emerged during the investigation into Loughner’s psyche, yet virtually no one wants to discuss it. Was the shooter inspired by the entertainment media?
Why would violent movies or music be left out of the rush to judgment? Perhaps it’s because pop-culture defenders never tire of arguing that no one can blame the “artists” – be they musicians, movie-makers or video-game manufacturers – for youth violence. So it becomes awkward, to say the least, that everyone’s discussing the need to curb a national appetite for angry rhetoric, when it was disturbing music and movies that were influencing Loughner’s mind, and they are ignored.
On Tuesday's Morning Edition, actor Ben Affleck was selling his new movie about corporate layoffs, Company Men, and anchorman Steve Inskeep carefully led the left-wing actor onto a soapbox to lecture about the immorality of American capitalism and financiers who do nothing but "move money back and forth":
INSKEEP: There's a line in Company Men that's staying with me. Tommy Lee Jones is at a corporate conference table. Someone else at the conference table is discussing their plans to lay off a bunch of workers. And nearly all the workers being laid off are older, which could be construed as being wrong or illegal. Someone at the table says: "Oh, no. This is going to pass legal scrutiny." And Jones responds: "I always thought we aimed for a little higher standard than that."
AFFLECK: That speaks so perfectly to people's feelings about our country. It's like it's just about getting by, or people can like let people go if they can get away with it, that there's no deeper sense of right or wrong. The banks shouldn't -- people shouldn't make such a giant profit off just moving money back and forth. And CEOs' pay shouldn't be 200 times the average worker. It used to be nine times.
Wesley Snipes is in jail. That’s right, Blade is behind bars. Passenger 57 is now known as Inmate 224567.
And this friends, is a travesty.
It’s not just a travesty because we’re going to have to wait at least three years for the next poorly conceived direct-to-video action film starring the Shotokan Karate master. It’s a travesty because of the deafening silence surrounding his trial and incarceration.
Julia Roberts may have been crowned best actress in 2000 for her performance in (and as) "Erin Brockovich", but the film did what politically-loaded Hollywood products often do: it distorted the facts, and may have done more harm than good to the town of Hinkley, CA.
The film followed Brockovich as she led a class-action suit against Pacific Gas & Electric for releasing hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, a cancer-causing toxin, into the water supply in Hinkley. PG&E eventually went to arbitration, and awarded a record-$333 million in damages to residents of the town.
But now, 10 years after Roberts's award-winning performance, and 17 years after the actual suit, cancer rates in Hinkley are unremarkable. In fact, they are lower than would normally be expected. The Associated Press reported Monday:
As NB's Noel Sheppard noted on Sunday, the new film "Fair Game" is so full of falsehoods and is such an affront to historical accuracy that even the Washington Post's editorial staff felt obligated to debunk the many untruths it presents.
Regardless of its quality, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” will likely become a huge blockbuster. It’s the seventh film chronicling the long-running book series about a wizard named Harry Potter and his two best friends. The final book of the series was split into two films and the second part will be released in July 2011.
Today's Washington Post "Free for All" section included a letter to the editor from one R.E. Pound, a CIA veteran who retired after 33 years of service in 2009, some 31 years after being outed in a book as an operative. Pound took to task former CIA operative Valerie Plame for her "ludicrous" claim "that the exposure [of her identity] forced an end to her career in intelligence."
After all, Pound conducted an investigation "charged with looking into possible damage in one location caused by Valerie Plame's outing."
"There was none," Pound noted, and complained that the claims of the new "Fair Game" film "devalue the resolve of the officers who have overcome truly dangerous exposure, and they cheapen the risk from laying bare their very real achievements."
Here's the letter in full as published in the November 12 paper:
The director of the new film "Fair Game" - released Friday - is either blatantly dishonest, or astoundingly lazy. The movie, starring Sean Penn as former U.S. diplomat Joe Wilson and Naomi Watts as his embattled wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, makes a number of claims on controversial issues that are demonstrably false.
The Daily Caller's Jamie Weinstein did the legwork in demonstrating just how far from the truth some of the film's central claims are. Chief among them, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and other White House officials exerted political pressure on intelligence officials to cherrypick intelligence favorable to claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
On Monday's Joy Behar show, the host promoted the latest work of liberal actor Richard Dreyfuss, but soon turned the conversation to Dreyfuss playing Dick Cheney in the 2008 Oliver Stone flop "W." and how he could find the "satanic spot" in his soul to play Cheney. Dreyfuss said you can "find all the villainy in the world in your own heart," and said he tells students to focus on the Hitler inside you when playing a bad guy. Cheney as Hitler: this is just another night on the Joy Behar Show.
BEHAR: Now, you played a bad guy in "Red" and you also played a bad guy in "W," one of my favorite movies. So funny.
DREYFUSS: Which you said I would never do. He would never do that. He would never play Dick Cheney. He's a liberal.
BEHAR: I was wrong. I was wrong. But was it hard to play Dick Cheney?
When word hit that Zack Snyder would be directing a Christopher Nolan produced, David Goyer written version of “Superman,” many a geek heart rejoiced. Images of super slo-mo action, desaturated color palettes, and snappy and powerful one-liners filled our heads. All was good in the Geekosphere.
Then, alas, came word that the script for the film was “a mess.” The oddly named “Vulture” dropped the bomb that Snyder had been hired because the studio wanted a director capable of putting together a hacky “rush job” so Warner Brothers could keep the rights to the Man of Steel. Director Darren Aronofsky, fresh off the buzz of his upcoming film “The Black Swan” passed on the project because it was in such disarray and reeked of a studio cash grab…. Great Ceasar’s ghost, what’s going on here?
If you haven’t been reading Big Hollywood, or living on Planet Earth, you might not know that Hollywood has a leftist bent to it. You also may not know that the Hollywood press is just as corrupt, self-serving and leftist as their cousins in the mainstream media. The reports of “Superman’s” death are greatly exaggerated. This is nasty spin, aimed to take down two of Hollywood’s new school power players while boosting up a critical darling who has little appeal outside the coastal critics community. It also has a lot to do with politics and ideology.
The only way it gets worse than reading the latest pinko missive by Robert Redford on the Huffington Post would be if Michael Moore was checking your prostate at the same time and muttering, “No, no, no, that doesn’t feel right at all.”
Redford used to be a movie star and heartthrob until he began noticeably wizening in the 80’s (watch 1992’s Sneakers; Redford’s got more loose skin going on than Ed Gein’s basement). After that, he largely moved on to directing crappy movies about how America sucks that no one watches, like 2007’s Lions For Lambs, and lecturing the rest of us about how we have failed to live up to his expectations.
His current bugaboo is that evil companies are engaged in the political process. Redford warns:
We may have just found the outer edge of the Hollywood taste envelope, all thanks to Andy and Larry Wachowski, the creators of The Matrix. Formerly known as the Wachowski Brothers - that is, until Larry decided after making zillions of dollars and gaining millions of slobbering fans that the only thing standing between him and true happiness was his penis - this pair's latest project, Cobalt Neural 9, appears to be repelling even the jaded mandarins of Hollywood.
Oh, it's not because the content of CN9 will be vacuous, foul and outright evil, though it is. It's because no one in Tinseltown thinks the movie will make any money.
So what is CN9 about? Well, it appears to mix condemnation of the Iraq War, a healthy dose of gay sex, naturally, a plot to assassinate George W. Bush. Sounds less like a hit movie than the agenda for a Daily Kos staff meeting.
Don’t read Newsweek magazine while drinking a beverage. A spit take is the obvious first reaction to a column by Julia Baird headlined “The Shame of Family Films.” On the Internet, this article is coded as “Why family films are so sexist.”
Baird's denunciation of Hollywood's fraction of decent entertainment began: “They have all been smash hits: ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘Madagascar,’ ‘Ice Age,’ ‘Toy Story.’ Fish, penguins, rats, stuffed animals, talking toys. All good innocent family fun, right? Sure, except there are few female characters in those films. There are certainly few doing anything meaningful or heroic – and no, Bo Peep doesn't count.”
So what does feminist bean-counting have to do with whether a movie is “good innocent family fun”? Did any young girl come away from “Finding Nemo” feeling like the memory-challenged Ellen DeGeneres fish character didn’t represent female empowerment effectively? Were they offended by the oppressively archaic stereotype of Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl during “Toy Story 2"? Families can’t enjoy these films without expecting them to pass some politically correct quota exam?
Oliver Stone is discovering one of the many joys of capitalism: without it, he would never be able to make such flashy, well-produced films bashing capitalism!
Stone's latest film, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps", may have replaced Charlie Sheen, star of the original, with a younger Shia LaBeouf, but it's still as hypocritically anti-capitalist as the original.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, "Money Never Sleeps" would not have been able to muster a sufficient budget without massive product placement campaigns. The film benefitted "enormously" from the advertising technique, Stone admitted (h/t Big Hollywood headlines).
The internet is abuzz with praise for the new documentary that points out the many faults of public education, Waiting for Superman. With positive reviews from both the Huffington Post on the Left as well as the New York Poston the Right, it makes one wonder, how could this be? It appears that this film has single-handedly done what President Obama could not do to save his own life: bring the Left and Right together on a single issue.
It is refreshing that the film's director, Davis Guggenheim (who directed An Inconvenient Truth), is able to put politics aside to see the destructive nature of teachers unions. Guggenheim put his own kids through private school but realizes that not everyone can afford such a luxury. Here, he sets out to tackle the real problems that have long plagued public school systems: teachers unions. Though, he is careful to say that he isn't bashing unions in general.
Guggenheim sees that not everything has to be a political football, which is why we should applaud him for taking a bipartisan approach. However, some feel that the response to the film shows the true, negative colors of conservatives. Liberal Patrick Goldstein comments in the Los Angeles Times:
"It is time for stronger remedies to be applied," said abolitionist Wendell Phillips of the Union's effort during the Civil War,"in the form of hot lead and cold steel duly administered by 100,000 black doctors." His vision became a reality as over 180,000 African-Americans (free men and escaped slaves) joined the Union Army to fight against the slave-holding Confederacy.
The story of the first such "colored" regiment to be formed, the 54th Massachusetts, is beautifully retold in director Edward Zwick's 1989 film Glory. That this film didn't even garner an Oscar nomination for best picture - in a year where Driving Miss Daisy took the prize - is puzzling to me. Glory features a first-rate script, wonderful imagery, and a stellar cast led by Matthew Broderick who plays Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the real-life idealistic white officer chosen to lead the regiment. The film is also a feast for the ears as the majestic chorus of the Harlem Boys' Choir permeates the score.
Oliver Stone may strike most people as pretty radical, but not to people at The New York Times. Business columnist Joseph Nocera panned Stone's new movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in a piece headlined "When Did Gekko Get So Toothless?" Stone failed to "eviscerate the folks responsible" for the credit crisis -- and Nocera might mean actually removing their viscera, like in a slasher flick:
There is something a little incongruous about hearing Oliver Stone, the left-leaning, blunt-talking film director, dropping arcane Wall Street terms like "credit default swaps" and "collateralized debt obligations." But that’s just what he was doing a few weeks ago when trying to explain why his new movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” was not the fictionalized version of the financial crisis of 2008 I had expected.
"Feminism is a Crock - and Other True Stories." That's the title for a book I'd like to write someday. The reason I say feminism is a crock is because it has morphed from "equal rights for all" to "women are better than men, and if you disagree you're a sexist pig who should be castrated." It's also morphed into a sexual free-for-all: what used to be sauce for the gander (and those ganders were usually considered cads) is now sauce for the goose. This image is being perpetuated by pop culture and entertainment, and women are more and more frequently being portrayed as strong through their sexuality, not through their actual accomplishments. Is this the standard to which we want our daughters to aspire?
Early feminists fought against the centuries-old image of a "woman on a pedestal." Gloria Steinem (she of the "a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle" who in later years ended up getting married anyway) once said, "A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space." I suppose a bra is also a small, confined space, which might explain the bra burnings of the 1960s. But the early feminists had a point - to a point. If a woman wants to be put on a pedestal and admired and adored, fine. But if she doesn't, she should have the right to do with her life as she chooses. She should be free to pursue any vocation for which she is qualified, either as a single or married woman, children or no children.
Do the math. Instead of someone with the last name Rodriguez telling the tale of noble, sympathetic Hispanics victimized by white American southern rednecks - all of whom are portrayed as murderous racists, what if we had a white filmmaker telling the tale of noble and sympathetic Texas border ranchers victimized by marauding, racist, gold-toothed unwashed Mexicans out to steal their land? Oh, and we would close our story with a stand-up-and-cheer race war where Texas ranchers unite to violently mow down evil Mexicans.
The same Left whose standards are so low that opposition to ObamaCare, same-sex marriage, and the Ground Zero Mosque can only be driven by a "phobia" or "ist" - the same PC Left that hides "silly" old Bugs Bunny cartoons and can't broadcast a season of "24″ without including a patronizing Don't Be Racist to Muslims PSA - sees the vicious portrayal of white Texans in "Machete" as nothing more than a silly goof. I guess it's easy to convince yourself of that when your principles are based on an agenda as opposed to any sense of consistency or intellectual honesty.
It breaks my heart to write this article. Roger Ebert has been a part of my love for cinema since I was eleven years old. When I was in the hospital for two months at age 19, I devoured his entire book of movie reviews. I even met him at the 2002 Conference on World Affairs when he dissected David Lynch's masterpiece Mulholland Drive (though I thought he needlessly threw in the towel regarding the film's meaning). I don't need to expound on his contributions to film education and his championing of truly great movies.
Nevertheless, I don't know the man. I only know his words. Yet I have to wonder if the physical and mental trauma Roger has endured has taken a toll on his mind. He always seemed apolitical to me. He just wrote great movie reviews. However, he started a political journal on his website in the past year. It's full of the same clap-trap expected from those on the Left: false premises, poorly constructed arguments, and replies to comments which dodge legitimate challenges.
On July 27th and 28th, the New York Times published the following headline: "The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected." In the story that followed the headline, readers were informed: "The immense patches of surface oil that [once] covered thousands of square miles of the gulf after the...oil rig explosion are largely gone."
Ironically, the man who predicted this would be case was the much-maligned Tony Hayward, former Chief Executive of British Petroleum (BP). While being grilled on Capital Hill about the oil spill earlier this year, Hayward described it as a "relatively tiny" one in comparison to the "very big ocean" in which it had occurred. Although the backlash Hayward faced by Democrats was nasty, Rush Limbaugh concurred with the BP boss, and stories like the one I cited from the New York Times seem to demonstrate that Hayward and Limbaugh were both correct.
Yet, not only does BP continue to be the target of heavy criticism by Democrats and environmental groups, it has even found itself in the crosshairs of Brad Pitt, who recently "said he would consider the death penalty for those to blame for the Gulf oil spill crisis." According to the UK's Daily Mail, Pitt's exact words were: "I was never for the death penalty before - I am willing to look at it again."
There are three important things going on in "The Tillman Story" (in selected theatres today), two of which almost make the conspiracy-mongering documentary worth your time. The first and best is the opportunity to get to know better the extraordinary and extraordinarily complicated and interesting Pat Tillman. In the best sense of the word, this was a fierce and fiercely passionate man - fierce on the football field, fierce on the battlefield, and fierce in his personal beliefs. This was also a man who only ever dated one woman, the woman he would marry the same week he enlisted; and my guess is that Tillman was the kind of man and husband who found leaving the fame of professional football much easier than leaving his young bride.
You also meet Tillman's family; his parents, brother and wife - a decent, loving, inconsolable group dealing with the terrible loss of someone they obviously loved and miss very much. This is a family furious with a United States government who didn't know all the facts before they told the story of Tillman's death to them, and to the American people. And as far as that goes, they are right to be angry.
Hollywood westerns don't sell very well anymore. Remakes of westerns don't sell and they tend to remind those who do see them of the superiority of the originals. So remaking the iconic 1969 western, "True Grit," for which John Wayne received his only Best Actor Oscar, seems an odd choice for the Coen brothers.
But the extremely successful directors of "Fargo," "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" and "No Country for Old Men," are indeed remaking "True Grit." They stress that their effort is based more on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis than the original movie. Still, The Duke's portrayal of hard-drinking, one-eyed Marshall Rooster Cogburn has been a TV staple for decades. Portis' novel - not so much.
The Coens' quirky, often dark and sometimes absurd portraits of America couldn't be much more different from any flick in John Wayne's legendary career. And maybe that's the point. After all, any movie with America-bashing lefty Matt Damon in an important supporting role is bound to be at odds with traditional takes on the American frontier. All the more-so because Damon admitted, "I've never even seen the original John Wayne movie."
The Coens cast 2010 Best Actor Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges as Cogburn. Bridges will have to be a heck of an actor to do the character justice, because in real life, he couldn't be more different than Wayne, a traditional conservative.
Last week, film writer extraordinaire Christian Toto fell under the delusion that yours truly was interesting enough to interview, and if you're under the same delusion you can read the two-parter here and here. Among other things, Toto asked me about the clout critics wield and the most common mistakes they make. Here's a combination of my answers:
Critics aren't dumb, they know the public doesn't much care which way their thumbs point. But critics do know that based on their opinions and reviews they can enjoy an influence over what kind of films get made. And that's not a small amount of power. Culture is upstream from politics, after all.
If you have 95 percent of critics savaging a faithful retelling of the Gospels as anti-Semitic, no matter how successful "The Passion" is, no one's going to go near that subject matter again. And that's the goal. Same with anything that comes close to patriotism or conservatism. Such cinematic rarities are frequently labeled "jingoistic, fascist or simple minded." This is all done consciously and for a desired effect.
With the release of The Expendables, it seems that every self-respecting male has caught 80's fever. As a way to clear the palette from modern metro-sexual romps, my friends have resorted to re-visiting old B-movie beauties such as Cobra, Road House and Tango and Cash. Sure they're awful, but unlike the Kaiser-helmet wearing hipsters of the lower east side, those movies never tried to be anything that they weren't.
When looking back at the 80s however, the one thing that strikes me the most are the cartoons. I'll admit it, I'm a cartoon junkie. To this day I can still be found in my pajamas with a bowl of Cap'n Crunch, catching up on animated glory. Back in the 80s though, cartoons were still violent... and I liked it that way.
Of course, I'm discussing the cartoons aimed squarely at young boys. You see, back then, before gender roles became considered hateful and being androgynous had been transformed into a virtue, boys actually watched different cartoons from girls, and they were proud of it.
If you’re not interested in having Will Ferrell lecture you on the evils of capitalism this coming weekend and would instead prefer to cozy up at home before the warm glow of plasma with a cold one in one hand a Redbox receipt in the other, here are five fairly new-to-DVD flicks that won’t leave you feeling sucker punched.
1.The Road: Director John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winner was unforgivably snubbed for Oscar consideration last year, as was leading man Viggo Mortensen for his heart-wrenching work as a widowed father leading his adolescent son across a dangerous, barren post-apocalyptic America. Muted, heartbreaking, and yet hopeful, this is a story about a father teaching his son about what it takes to survive at any cost other than losing your humanity. Perfectly acted, beautifully directed and paced in such a way that casts an hypnotic spell, “The Road” is part Christian allegory, part zombie movie, and boasts an unforgettable cameo by Robert Duvall.
When the credits are the most intriguing part of the movie, there's a problem.
In the new film "The Other Guys," starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, two mismatched cops try to make a name for themselves by investigating a potential Ponzi scheme run by a corrupt investor. The villain is a pseudo-Bernie Madoff but rather than vilifying a single fraud, director Adam McKay ("Anchorman," "Step Brothers") lumped all investors together and attacked Wall Street as a whole.
"The Other Guys" is a funny but not hilarious movie for 1 hour and 47 minutes but instead of simply rolling the credits and letting viewers leave smiling, McKay followed with graphics criticizing Wall Street and corporate executives. It was almost as if Michael Moore filmed the closing credits, as graphics included the anatomy of a Ponzi scheme, the ratio of CEO to employee salaries, a comparison of the New York Police Department's pension fund to an average CEO's pension fund, an average worker's 401(k) account compared to a CEO's, and the amount of taxes Goldman Sachs paid after the bailout.
While the credits provided the most egregious anti-business attacks, there were other subtle pokes at business and Republicans within the film. For example, the villain, named David Ershon (whose last name rhymes eerily with ‘Enron'), is seen in a photograph with former President George W. Bush and is said to be friends with conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Other chides included Ershon stealing from both the lottery and the NYPD pension fund -- essentially stealing money from the state and a labor union -- and the villains' drive SUV's while the heroes drive a Toyota Prius.